Car Clicking But Won’t Start (Common Causes & Fixes)

Car Clicking Won't Start

A car that clicks but won't start is a frustrating problem that can leave any driver stranded and helpless.

The clicking sound usually indicates that the starter motor is engaging, but the engine is not turning over. There are a few possible reasons for this.

It could be due to a drained battery, a damaged alternator, a trouble-causing starter motor, or an unresponsive ignition switch. 

Figuring out the source of the issue can be troublesome, so you may need to consult an auto technician.

This article explores why a car will click but won't start. We also provide helpful tips to troubleshoot and resolve this issue.

Car Clicking But Not Starting Troubleshooting Video

How Does the Starter Motor Work?

The starter motor is a crucial component in your car's ignition system that’s responsible for starting your engine. It converts electrical energy from the battery into mechanical energy to turn the engine over and initiate combustion.

Understanding how the starter motor works is vital to maintaining your car's performance and diagnosing any issues that may arise. The starter motor consists of several parts, including a solenoid, an armature, and gears.

The solenoid is an electromagnetic switch that pulls the starter motor's pinion gear into contact with the engine's flywheel. This happens when you turn the key in the ignition. The armature is a rotating shaft with several copper windings that surround it.

As the solenoid engages, it sends a high electrical current through the windings, causing the armature to rotate and turn the starter gear. That rotates the engine's flywheel. This motion initiates the engine's combustion process and allows it to start.

When the starter motor fails, you may hear a clicking noise. This indicates that the solenoid is engaging but the engine is not turning.

Various factors, including a dead battery, a faulty alternator, or a bad starter motor, can cause this. Regular maintenance and care can help extend the lifespan of your starter motor and prevent these issues from occurring.

You should also avoid turning the key in the ignition for extended periods as this can damage the starter motor's windings.

If you suspect that your starter motor is failing, consult a mechanic or automotive expert who can diagnose and repair the issue.

Car Clicking But Won’t Start: Common Causes

A clicking sound from your car's engine when you turn the key in the ignition can be a frustrating experience.

Several underlying issues can cause a clicking vehicle. You must identify the root cause to diagnose and fix the problem effectively.

1. Dead battery

A dead battery is one of the most common causes of a clicking car. The starter motor may elicit a clicking sound when the key rotates in the ignition.

However, the the car needs the battery's electrical energy to start. A defective battery cannot deliver the required power, resulting in the engine failing to turn.

2. Malfunctioning alternator

Additionally, a malfunctioning alternator might be the source of the issue. The alternator charges the battery and powers the car's electrical system.

If it is not adequately doing its job, the battery won't be able to recharge, and the components will not work properly. A faulty alternator can cause the battery to drain quickly and prevent the engine from starting.

3. Lousy starter

A lousy starter motor can also cause a clicking car. If the starter motor is faulty, it may not be able to engage the engine's flywheel. That prevents the engine from turning over.

A clicking sound indicates that the solenoid is engaging, but the motor is not turning.

Other factors that can cause a clicking car include:

  • A malfunctioning ignition switch.
  • Damaged or corroded battery cables.
  • A loose connection in the starter circuit.

A thorough inspection of the electrical system and starter circuit will help identify and resolve these issues.

Testing Your Battery: A Step-by-Step Guide to Troubleshooting a Dead Battery

A dead battery can be an inconvenient experience for any car owner. You must troubleshoot and test your car's battery to identify and fix the problem effectively.

Here is a step-by-step guide to testing your battery:

Step 1: Prepare the tools

You will need a digital multimeter, safety glasses, and rubber gloves to test your battery. Safety glasses and rubber gloves protect you from battery acid.

Step 2: Turn off the engine and open the hood

Turn off you car's engine is and open the hood.

Step 3: Disconnect the battery

Disconnect the battery cables from the terminals using a wrench or pliers. Ensure that you disconnect the negative cable first.

Step 4: Set the multimeter

Set the digital multimeter to DC volts and select the appropriate range. Typically, the range should be between 0 and 20 volts.

Step 5: Test the battery voltage

Place the multimeter's probes on the battery terminals. The red probe should be on the positive terminal, and the black probe should be on the negative terminal. Record the voltage reading.

Step 6: Interpret the reading

A fully charged battery should read between 12.6 to 12.8 volts. You may have a discharged battery that requires recharging if the reading is below 12.4 volts.

If the reading is below 11.8 volts, the battery may be severely discharged. In that case, you should recharge or replace the battery.

Step 7: Test the battery under load

To test the battery under load, turn on your car's headlights and repeat the voltage reading with the probes on the battery terminals.

The voltage reading should not drop below 10.5 volts. If it does, the battery may need replacement.

Step 8: Reconnect the battery

After testing the battery, reconnect the cables in reverse order, starting with the positive cable.

Checking Your Alternator

A faulty alternator can cause several issues, including a dead battery, dimming headlights, and difficulty starting the engine. Here are some signs of a defective alternator and how to test it:

Indicators of a Faulty Alternator

  • Dimming headlights: If the car headlights appear less bright than usual, the alternator may not be supplying enough voltage to the electrical system.
  • Dead battery: A faulty alternator can cause your car's battery to die quickly or not charge correctly, leading to a dead battery.
  • Electrical issues: Your car's electrical components might not work correctly if the alternator is not functioning.
  • Strange noises: A faulty alternator may produce unusual noises, such as grinding or whining.

How to Test the Alternator

Step 1: Turn off the engine

Turn off you car's engine and remove the key from the ignition.

Step 2: Locate the alternator

The engine's front side houses the alternator, with a drive belt connected to it.

Step 3: Check the alternator connections

Inspect the alternator connections and ensure they are clean, tight, and corrosion-free.

Step 4: Test the alternator with a multimeter

Set your multimeter to DC volts and connect the probes to the alternator terminals. The red probe must attach to the positive terminal, while the black probe should attach to the negative terminal.

Start the engine and observe the multimeter reading. A healthy alternator should produce a reading between 13.5 to 14.5 volts.

If the task is below 13.5 volts, the alternator may not be charging the battery correctly, and if the reading is above 14.5 volts, the alternator may be overcharging the battery.

Step 5: Test the alternator with a load tester

A load tester is a specialized tool that measures the alternator's output under a load. Connect the load tester to the alternator and start the engine.

Observe the load tester's reading, which should be within the manufacturer's specifications. If the reading is outside the range, the alternator may need repair or replacement.

How to Prevent a Clicking Car: Regular Maintenance and Care

There are ways to prevent a clicking car and ensure that your vehicle runs reliably. Follow these tips:

Regularly check your battery's condition as well. Inspect your battery for any signs of corrosion or damage, and check the terminals to ensure they are clean and tight.  Use a multimeter to periodically test your battery's voltage and ensure it holds a charge correctly.

Another critical component of your car's electrical system is the alternator, responsible for providing power to the electrical components and charging the battery. Check your alternator's condition to prevent a clicking car.

Some signs of a faulty alternator include dimming headlights, a dead battery, and electrical issues with your car's components.

If you believe your alternator might be defective, turn to a car specialist who can identify and tend to the trouble.

Regular maintenance and care of your car's alternator help prevent a faulty alternator.

Ensure that the alternator connections are clean and tight, inspect the alternator's drive belt for wear or damage, and replace the alternator according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule.

In addition to regular maintenance and care of your car's battery and alternator, there are other steps you can take to prevent a clicking car.

Keep your car's electrical components turned off when the engine is not running to help prevent the unnecessary drain on the battery.

Also, be mindful of the driving conditions affecting your car's battery and alternator.

In extreme warm and cold temps, look after the vehicle's battery and alternator to avert any strain on the automobile's electrical system.